Welcome to the second of this weekend’s short stories and today meet Xenia.
Xenia – Beloved
Your name is Xenia, after your Greek grandmother, whose wrinkled complexion smelt of roses and almond oil. I remember the hot summers of our visits as we played on the rocks beneath her stone house; working up an appetite for the platters of goat’s cheese, olives and warm bread. The loaves were taken straight from the wood stove; handled carefully with well-worn hessian rags, and served up on the rough wooden table in her wild garden. I remember being fascinated by her hands as they sliced thick warm chunks with an ancient serrated bread knife. They were blackened from nearly 80 years in the sun, with dark-rimmed nails from digging into the soil for home grown vegetables.
She was still a beautiful woman, who loved to have her long black and grey hair gently brushed in the twilight; sipping delicately from her glass of rose pink wine. Happy sighs filled the scented air; encouraging continued effort. We dreaded her tears as we left to catch the ferry at the end of summer, with her whispered goodbyes and pleas for us to return again the next year, remaining in our minds for weeks afterwards.
But one summer only my father made the journey, to stay just a week to bury his beloved mother, with her silver backed hair brush and a small bottle of almond oil resting in her hands.
That was ten years ago and I have been saving up her name to give to you, my first child. From the moment I knew that I was carrying you in my womb, I felt certain that you would be a girl and worthy of this much loved name. As the months passed, and I felt that first movement beneath my hand, I began to talk to you of your name and the woman who owned it with such grace. Sometimes when I listened to music playing softly in the background, I would feel a flutter, as if you were dancing in time to the tune. I would imagine Xenia, swaying and clapping her hands in delight, lost in the gentle songs that my father played on his guitar after our evening meal. I knew she would be so happy that I had named you after her.
My time with my grandmother was too short, but I had saved up the stories to tell you, as well as photographs we took during those summers. I would tell you those tales as we rocked, still joined together, in the chair in the newly painted nursery. I promised to show you the embarrassing snaps of your mother when a girl, dressed in her bathing suit with face filled with sticky baklava. I imagined taking you back to Greece to see where you came from, and to visit Xenia’s grave to lay some blossom, and to show her how beautiful you are. I was certain that your hair would be raven black and that you would love almonds.
Your father laughed at me as I waddled around the house in search of more feta cheese and pickled onions. He said that there must be two of you, or that you were really a big bouncing boy; destined to be a rugby player. He would lay his head on my stomach and listen to your heartbeat; loving it when you kicked against his hand. We had chosen not to know the gender of our baby. I already knew it was a girl to be called Xenia, and your father just wanted a baby who was healthy that we would love.
I knew the moment you had gone. All was still where you had been so active. I thought you must be sleeping, and lay in the hospital bed resting, waiting for that kick and ripple, telling me you wanted my attention. But the cold gel, and pressure of the machine in a doctor’s hand, broke the spell. Your father and I held each other as we cried at our loss.
The love I feel for you will not diminish or change throughout my life. It comforts me to imagine you holding the hand of your great-grandmother, as you twirl to the music of a guitar. I see you eating baklava with sticky fingers, and her washing your hands and face lovingly, with rose scented water. I know that you are safe now, and that one day, we will meet face to face, and I will recognise you as the child of my heart. One day the three of us will sit in that wild garden, and laugh in the sunshine.
My two beloved Xenias…..
This story is from What’s in a Name volume 2 – which is also available in a combined print edition from me directly. The collection has recently received a wonderful review.
About What’s in a Name? Volume 2
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters.
Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.
Meet Queenie and Rosemary who have both lost their husbands and must face a very different future. One that will take courage and the use of new technology.
Sonia is an entitled princess whose father has reached the end of his tether and Theresa has to deal with a bully in the checkout. Usher is an arrogant narcissist with a docile wife and is used to getting his own way and Vanessa worries about the future of her relationship with her teenage son.
Walter is a loner and is happy with just his dog for company, Xenia is the long awaited first baby of a young couple. Yves is a dashing romeo who has the tables turned on him unexpectedly and Zoe… Well she can see into the future.
In one way or another all these characters will be remembered by those whose lives they have touched.
There is also a bonus story at the end of the book – The Village Square – September 1939.
One of the recent reviews for the collection
This second volume continues where the first book left off. The first story begins with “Kenneth,” and the rest of the stories flow through to “Zoe.” The author includes a bonus story at the end called, “The Village Square.”Prepare to be transported into the lives of the many personalities, Sally Cronin creates, inspired by a first name only. Each person’s name has a different tale to tell or life to lead, all carefully constructed to draw the reader into their experiences. Linking the stories together are the themes of romance and family. Need I say more?
I’m a great fan of short stories and find them some of the most satisfying bedtime reading there is. But, this book offered more than that. Sally Cronin writes in such a way that she evokes a range of emotions from the reader.
On numerous occasions, I couldn’t help but cheer or cry for several of the characters. The writing touched my heart.
Many of the stories are filled with plenty of sudden developments that will leave you guessing. Some, I couldn’t even attempt to guess the ending, which I found to be a special gift to the reader. Each story is character driven, and the author skillfully reels you in until a satisfying end is reached.
My favorite story was called, Queenie, who after the death of her husband, finds her way forward by taking on a project that matters most to her – her granddaughter’s happiness. Queenie’s granddaughter, Penny, is a psychiatrist and unmarried.
Nana (Queenie) decides that she must help her find a husband before she is called to her husband’s side in the great beyond. Of course, there are plenty of shenanigans that take place, but the underlying truths that unfold touched me deeply. This is the author’s style – she allows you to feel her stories.
The “What’s in a Name,” two book series, has proved to be one of my most favorite short story compilations. I’ll reread these stories, and greet them like long lost friends. Believe me; there’s something here for everyone!
MY RATING: Character Believability: 5 Flow and Pace: 5 Reader Engagement: 5 Reader Enrichment: 5 Reader Enjoyment: 5 Overall Rate: 5 out of 5 Stars
The combined print edition of Volume’s One and Two is available directly from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other print books on request and you can find out more about them and their most recent reviews in my directory. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018
Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you enjoyed this short story… always enjoy your feedback Thanks Sally